At the risk of sounding cliche, we’d say humans are resilient. Consider the pandemic. Things were extremely difficult for everyone, and that too on all fronts. Lives, jobs, mental health… so much was at risk.
And yet during these trying times people found many ways to bounce back. Perhaps one of the best ways to combat the ills of the pandemic was building and growing communities. The situation during the pandemic made community more necessary than it's ever been.
People who were out of jobs and needed a place that allowed them to go to help them find jobs found communities the perfect shelter. Communities helped them find empathy for what they were going through and helped them learn, for example, how to secure a job in the harsh climate. It may sound ironic, but the pandemic might have been the perfect storm.
Kishore C S, Content Lead at Zuddl, and Jared Robin, co-founder RevGenius, sat down for a fireside chat to discuss how communities have evolved, how people and business organizations leverage communities, and how communities can help engage customers in order to drive long-term growth.
Psst... if you'd rather listen to a podcast about this topic, click here.
The beginning of communities
In a wider sense of the word, communities evolved as something that’d support you, something outside of work. You had communities in schools, you had the church, you had sororities… And then there are meetup groups, there are events, and there are groups that border on being a community.
They were also shaped to be a business model, in the way events and communities brought people together. It’s just that the bridge for leveraging community for your job and your professional life has doubled down the past few years.
Thankfully, the digital revolution has made communities more far-reaching and more accessible than ever. That was clearly visible during and after the pandemic.
The first advantage of communities
On social media platforms people seem to do more selling than supporting.There’s nothing wrong with selling. Everyone lives by selling something, as the 19th century author Robert Louis Stevenson observed. But when selling is the predominant activity, other factors and questions about trust come into picture.
Community as a whole has been around probably since the beginning of time, the beginning of our lives. But the way they have entered business activities is very recent. And there’s a lot of reasons why communities are fast becoming important for organizations of all sorts. But the first advantage communities hold is that of trust.
People trust others more in communities than on social platforms. It’s like people are more eager to give when engaging communities. And the goal of being active in communities isn’t to drive leads further down the sales funnel. It’s more about helping them with their current needs.
For instance, RevGenius may have a hundred people who have signed up to get into SAS sales. There will be cohorts, where we could take 50 people for a month and get them into software sales. And it’s all based on the spirit of helping - like these people won’t be paying anything.
So communities have come to be identified with the goal of helping people at zero cost, or at a very low cost sometimes.
The widening reach and scope of community events
If you have any experience with communities, you’d have clearly observed two things. One, the reach of communities is growing rapidly, thanks to the digital space. And two, communities are growing in scope; business organizations are also leveraging them internally.
With the pandemic behind us, we can look forward to in-person events that would strengthen the communities. All through, the focus is still to help community members. So if there were hybrid or digital events, the idea is to give more people around the world access to the community.
Communities within remote businesses
Let’s see how lots of companies are approaching building communities through events. Initially, the companies were trying to improve their understanding of the virtual world, especially to see whether things were easy to adopt for everybody.
1. Better quality: Companies have already seen enough evidence that adoption is not an issue. So now businesses are looking for better production quality at their events. They don’t want events to look like just another (boring) meeting. They want a different level of involvement and engagement as well.
2. More focus: At their own end, companies are also taking care that they keep things interesting, focused, and relevant. They are making sure the topics interest the audience. Outcomes are now at the center of these events. And ‘interactive’ is the operative word here.
3. Micro events: Companies are looking to not only get more focus but are also trying to drive productivity at the departmental level. Micro events involving communities leads to more intent, more engagement. Even big conferences are trying to be more subtle, more personal, and more engaged.
How being interactive helps communities
You don’t always need to have a huge headcount; a smaller but more engaged group can be more effective too. Imagine you’re doing a hybrid workshop over Zuddl. The participants are women who are in institutional or B2B sales. And because Zuddl is built for making hybrid events interactive, everyone is super engaged and active - basically going great.
Then a saleswoman (let’s call her Irene) asks a question. Her job is to sell to hospitals. Because it’s the healthcare industry, with the insurance industry overlapping, there are lots of restrictions and policy guidelines on what she can do and what she can’t. And because it’s a unique, industry-specific situation Irene is describing, the resource-person has only so many things to say.
In absence of interactivity, Irene’s questions would go unanswered, or at least under-answered. That’d have left her unsatisfied - not a good thing for events.
But the platform’s ability to get everyone engaged and interact leads to a better outcome. The other participants know what’s being discussed. So everyone begins to dig deeper. They begin sharing their experiences from different industries, thereby trying to build a wider paradigm.
Soon, the underlying commonalities between different sales situations begin to emerge. Irene is able to connect the dots by uncovering the deeper connections between the different things the other participants are sharing. The overall quality of the discussion improves, with the result that Irene has found a very good answer to her question.
Community as the new influencer
Better understanding begins with better questions. And when you ask questions to people who’re close, they’ll first look at the use case and offer better answers. For instance, field marketers, who’ve been close to your customers for years, are able to niche down to the nitty-gritty in their answers. The people that look at everything best understand their community or their audience or their prospects or their customers the best.
It kinds of adds up in the way we make decisions in our daily lives. We always check with our inner circle first. A community kind of works as our extended inner circle, where the trust is the same, like as you trust your brother or your best friend.
Extend it a little. Suppose you’re traveling to some place and you’re looking to learn where you can find the best wi-fi. You’d likely head to Slack or some place where you’d see groups knowing and discussing this. And you can be sure you’ll have the right information. That’s like leveraging people in influencing type of capacities through the community.
The future of communities
The way people are engaging in communities, the way events are shaping up and getting interactive - all this is shaping communities in a very unique way. In fact, we believe that the trends point to something interesting: communities are going to be more massive, and yet more micro.
That means the sizes of communities will continue to expand. But would that hurt the purpose of communities, namely that of helping community members? Thanks to the digital capabilities of platforms, the focus is not getting blurred. People can still reach out on a one-to-one basis and seek and offer help to very specific issues.
You’ll also see communities becoming more empowering. People will have a bigger say in the direction in which their communities are headed. That augurs well not just for businesses but also for not-for-profits and social movements. For example, communities can solve lots of social challenges. Or there could be communities that could solve the problems of individuals.
Speaking of communities, have you checked out Hybrid State of Mind? It's the place to be if you're looking for expert advice, dope insights and a whole lot of other news and views from the event industry.